The Internet has become deeply entwined with our everyday lives in ways which most of us could never have imagined just a few years ago. Unfortunately, with this fact comes a growing concern regarding online privacy. Many of us are now connected to the Internet around the clock, be it on a mobile, tablet or desktop computer. With this overwhelming reliance on the Internet, it is more important than ever to identify the risks involved and take the necessary steps to safeguard your online privacy. If you do not take the matter seriously, you could find it coming back to haunt you in all manner of ways in the not-so-distant future. The following tips take a look at some of the ways in which you can protect your privacy in the virtual world.
1 – Be Wary of Cookies
Cookies are small text files created by your browser when visiting certain websites. Although these are meant to be temporary files, they rarely get deleted in practice unless you completely clear your browsing history. Cookies contain information such as user IDs, form information and settings for specific websites. Cookies exist to prevent you from having to enter these details or change these settings every time you return to the website. However, some cookies are used for data mining for advertising purposes. While disabling cookies entirely is rather inconvenient for most people, most modern browsers do allow you to do this, or at least change the way in which websites behave regarding cookies. One way to temporarily prevent websites from saving cookies on your computer is to use private browsing. Most modern browsers support this. For example, Google Chrome provides its Incognito mode, while Internet Explorer offers InPrivate browsing.
2 – Be Mindful of What You Post on Social Networks
Millions of people spend a considerable part of their lives using social networks. Facebook, for example, already has over a billion users. Potential employers and even romantic interests often scour a person’s online profiles to find out more about them before taking the relationship further. A lot of people don’t think twice about posting personal information on such online services. However, regardless of your social networking privacy settings, you should always assume, that once you have posted something online, it might stay there for good. For example, it is practically impossible to fully delete your Facebook account. Always think before posting on social networks, even if you think it will only be shared with your friends. The same applies to instant messaging, particularly on social networks. Never, under any circumstances, post any financial information on such websites, even in private messages.
3 – Avoid Personal Internet Use at Work
Although a lot of workplaces have strict restrictions on things like social networking, a lot of people happily keep their personal social media or email accounts open at work without even thinking about privacy concerns. It is becoming increasingly common for employers to monitor their staff at work. This may be done by way of a keylogger or even remote desktop software. Although employers are legally obligated to let their staff know if they have such monitoring systems in place, they often don’t. Before opening something like your personal email or social media account at work, know that absolutely everything you are doing on the computer may well be being monitored. In conclusion, don’t use the Internet for personal reasons at work, even if only for the sake of your online privacy.
4 – Learn How to Spot Online Scams
The Internet is chock full of scams. Fortunately, most of these are very easy to distinguish, and a lot of them end up in your spam email folder and never even get noticed. However, even those of us who don’t fall for the more obvious scams can still unwittingly end up in a world of trouble. One of the most common types of online scam is the phishing scam. This is when a cybercriminal creates a webpage or email newsletter which is intended to imitate that of a real company. They will then fool you into entering personal and/or financial information. Most modern browsers do provide some additional protection against these scams, but you should still always think before providing any sensitive information to a website or other online service.
5 – Be Wary of Unsecured Wi-Fi Hotspots
If you are in the habit of connecting to public Wi-Fi services such as those often found in cafés, restaurants, hotels or public transport, be wary of unsecured connections which are not password-protected. It might seem convenient to not have to ask someone for the password, but such connections rarely have any data encryption, and someone with the right software will be able to see all of the data sent between your computer and the Internet. This may include passwords, bank account details and other sensitive data. To prevent this from happening, avoid using unsecured networks for anything personal or financial. It is wise to even be mindful of secured public connections as well, particularly when transmitting any kind of sensitive data.